Games for Pets and Kids – Part II

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This is part II of the “Games for Pets and Kids” series of 2 articles

BECOME the Dog

In this game, instead of the dog adapting to our human ways, WE are going to pretend to be dogs!  The goal is to get down on your hands and knees and see the world from your pup’s perspective, whether inside or outside.  So be prepared to get a little dirty.

Dogs are not likely to need incentives to play this game.  Being a dog comes naturally to them, of course!  If seeing you all playing down on the floor isn’t enough to inspire your dog to interact, bring in his favorite toy. Your dog will want to nibble during this game, so make sure your children know that the dog’s toy is meant to be touched by adults and the pup only.

The best way to begin is to practice alone with your pup, teaching and correcting boisterous behaviour so that they adapt to a small child. The best form of correction is gentle orientation. Normally fending off with your hands is enough. If not, stop playing for a minute. They will quickly catch on that if they want to continue playing, they can’t push or knock you over – seeing playtime end is the worst possible punishment.

Rules for the Dog

  • Should not attempt to interact with the toddler during the treasure hunt. Keeping a safe distance whilst still being able to run around is fun as well
  • Know when to stop and heel on command
  • Must not be possessive with food or toys
  • Identify and respect the children’s toys

Rules for the Toddler

  • Don’t provoke the dog by pushing, even if they’re responding playfully
  • Don’t grab the dog’s toy or attempt to take it away from him
  • Stay on your hands and knees as long as possible. Getting up makes it easier to get knocked down, plus it automatically excludes you from the “Become the Dog” game


This is the classic! Playing catch is not only an awesome game, it comes quite naturally to most dogs. As soon as your toddler is can throw a ball, even if just for a short distance, your child and dog can have a great time together. In a larger area, the adult can throw the ball even further while carrying the child around. As soon as children are able to kick the ball with their feet, they can also send the ball even farther that way. Then, try inverting roles. Put your pups on a leash or ask them to “stay” if they know the command, it’ll be a great way for them to practice. Then throw the ball and have the toddler fetch it and bring it to the pup to play. It’s very important that the pup gets rewarded if you’re using the game to train “stay” and countenance ability whilst the ball is being thrown.

Rules for the Dog

  • Drop the ball once retrieved, so it can be thrown again
  • Wait, sitting down, for the command to retrieve the ball
  • Never try to take the ball from anyone’s hands
  • Do not be possessive or aggressive if someone picks up the ball or tries to take it

Rules for the Toddler

  • Don’t take the ball away from the pup
  • Don’t rob the ball from the ground if the pup is playing with it
  • Wait for adult permission before taking the ball and throwing it, or wait for adults to pick up the ball, first
  • Keep your hands away from your mouths until the game is over and everyone’s hands are washed

With these suggestions, I’m hoping that many families start joining their 2-legged and 4-legged little ones when playing games at home. If you try any of these suggestions or if you have some new ones, share them with us in the comment section. We can’t wait to get you all in a playful mood. Have fun!

Author: Miguel Pessanha Pais, marine biologist

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